Digital Research Materials

Julia Flanders

2009-04-17

What is distinctive about digital research materials?

What I want to do in this first session is situate text encoding within a larger frame of reference: as a specific way of representing scholarly information

In order to do this, I think it will be helpful if we can lay out in front of ourselves the kinds of research materials we’re familiar with, and talk about how we’re used to thinking with them: what do they do for us, informationally? how do they present the source materials to us?

So: what kinds of research sources have you used in the past year?

How would we characterize the types of information found in these sources?

How do we evaluate these various types of sources? how are they successful or unsuccessful?

Is any of this inflected by discipline?

What is text encoding? Where does it fit in?

So we can try to situate the activity of text encoding in this intellectual space:

Perhaps most importantly, text encoding is a modelling activity: a process of creating an analytical representation of an object (e.g. a document) or an information system

Sampling and modelling

It may be useful to talk more about the concept of data modelling at this point...

I’m using the term modelling here as distinct from a concept like sampling:

Sampling produces what I would tentatively call a depiction: a version that aspires to be the source:

Modelling produces a version that aspires to yield information about the source for a specific purpose:

Varieties of digital formats

What do the examples here show us? what does each version let you see? how does each representation convey information about the original artifact? (Pause for discussion)

Text encoding vs. information modelling

Note that text encoding may not even be the best or most evocative term for all of this:

And note as well that text markup is not the only way to model data, or text data: